TYLER, Texas — A prominent atheist activist organization has filed a complaint against a Texas judge who gave a man facing a misdemeanor assault charge the option of marrying his girlfriend and copying Scripture in lieu of serving time behind bars.
According to reports, Josten Bundy appeared in Smith County Court last month on charges that he had punched the ex-boyfriend of then-girlfriend Elizabeth Jaynes as the man had allegedly become verbally abusive with the woman.
Bundy appeared in court without an attorney and while he was given the opportunity to plead not guilty, he declined and asked Judge Randall Rogers to proceed.
“Then the the judge asked Josten if I was worth it and if we were living together, and we both said ‘yes,'” Jaynes recalled to CNN. “When the judge said part of the probation was that we had to get married, Josten smiled at me and I was turning red. The judge said, ‘You might want to check with her first.'”
“Josten said that because my face was red he thought I was okay with it, but then the judge made me stand up and asked me if I was okay with it. I said yes,” she said. “People were laughing behind me and the bailiff had to say ‘order in the court.’ It was embarrassing.”
Bundy also told reporters that he had explained to the judge that because he has four sisters, he felt he needed to stand up when a man disrespects a woman and that was why he struck Jaynes’ ex-boyfriend.
In offering two years probation instead of 15 days in jail, Rogers issued the condition that he marry Jaynes within 30 days and must write out Proverbs 26:27, which reads, “If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it,” 25 times a day throughout his probationary period.
Bundy accepted, and the two married on July 20th. He and Jaynes say that they don’t regret getting married, but wish they had more time to plan and make the day special.
Now, the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has filed a complaint with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, as the organization believes that Rogers was improper in his sentence and in a sense was “proselytizing.”
“Judges cannot require people to get married or force them to write Bible verses,” staff attorney Sam Grover said in a statement. “Judge Rogers’ conduct was illegal and he should face serious consequences for it. His actions demonstrate a religious bias with significant implications for any nonreligious or non-Christian litigants appearing before him.”
However, others are supportive of the judge.
“The couple must have wanted to get married. He had an option,” one commenter wrote. “This makes me wonder if it is necessary since a few Bible verses have everyone bent out of shape. I say if you are married in the courts or get walked down the isle and have a ceremony, you still have the same results.”
“Plenty of other judges have sentenced people to church, so this is nothing new,” another wrote. “I think these kinds of judges are able to avoid trouble because they offer religious sentences as alternatives to the actual sentence. Thus it ends up being the defendant’s decision.”